At least 2m expatriates in Saudi Arabia could soon lose their jobs, with about 250,000 companies yet to meet Saudisation quotas days before the deadline, according to local media.
The small and medium-sized firms classified under the kingdom's Saudisation programme, 'Nitaqat', as being in the ‘red category’ have until Wednesday to hire at least one Saudi national or risk their employees not having work permits renewed.
The measure is part of the kingdom’s push to reduce unemployment among its own population, particularly youth and women.
The Nitaqat system, introduced in 2011, involves a system of rewards and punishments for the country’s 800,000 registered private companies, depending on how well they meet quotas for the number of Saudis on their payroll.
Companies fulfilling their quotas are listed in the green zone, receiving privileges such as expedited visas for foreign workers and the right to hire expatriates working for other companies without first getting approval.
Firms that fall short of their quotas but are considered to be making efforts to reach them are in the yellow zone and face some restrictions on access to foreign labour.
Those that have not made any effort to employ Saudis are placed in the red zone. As well as a ban on renewing work permits for existing foreign workers those companies also will be denied services and licences by the ministry.
Workers whose visas are not renewed would be deported under the new law.
The number of companies in the red zone has declined from 340,000 firms earlier this year, Arab News reported.
Saudi Arabia is not the only Gulf country taking steps to increase the proportion of its nationals within the total population, with Kuwait last month announcing a plan to cull 100,000 expats each year over ten years.